The Winnipeg Jets and Pittsburgh Penguins don’t typically come to mind when the topic of “best defensive teams in the NHL” is discussed. Yet tonight’s game at the MTS Centre will feature a Jets side with a 2.00 goals-against average, the fifth lowest in the league, and a Pens side with a 2.09 GAA, good for ninth lowest.
Not coincidentally, both teams have benefited from strong goaltending, with both getting it from goalies who’ve faced considerable criticism in the past.
For Pittsburgh, Marc-Andre Fleury is 7-2-0 with a .931 save percentage. For Winnipeg, Ondrej Pavelec is 6-4-1 with a .924 save percentage.
The former just signed a four-year, $23 million contract extension. The latter has allowed just two goals in his last three starts, helping the Jets earn five out of a possible six points despite scoring just five goals combined in those three games.
Pavelec was one of the Jets’ biggest question marks heading into the season. The 27-year-old has ranked among the worst NHL starters the past three seasons, based on save percentage.
“We’re a little bit better balanced on the defensive side of the puck right now, and our goaltending has been really good,” said Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice. “Any mistakes we make we’re not answering for right now because our goaltender has closed them off.”